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Sarah Harding, untameable to the end, left a vital last message

Voice Of EU



Sarah Harding, the Girls Aloud singer, described in the memoir she published earlier this year as the prospect of her death loomed, how she often felt “a caricature” and “like a cartoon character rather than a popstar”.

The persona she was known for was a kind of tomboy Jessica Rabbit – all high notes and edgy glamour; loud and unapologetic; a messer, a chancer and a rebel.

The irony is that her death at the age of just 39 from metastatic breast cancer has made her real again, revealing the woman behind the tabloid magnet the press liked to call “Hardcore Harding”.

The Sarah Harding behind the caricature was a woman with insecurities and contradictions, one who both craved celebrity and frequently hated it. The loudest Girl Aloud was shy and socially awkward; she was a people pleaser who could be brittle; an insecure outsider who famously crashed a Ferrari during a Channel 4 documentary; a self-confessed diva, prone to occasional tantrums, who loved cooking and curling up with a book.

Tragically, many of us know someone who delayed a hospital appointment because of Covid

She is the woman who confronted Boy George in a hotel bar after he dismissed Girls Aloud as “just a bunch of pretty girls prancing around on the stage” – but also the one who put off going for a hospital appointment because she didn’t want to make a fuss during the pandemic.

Her 2021 memoir Hear Me Out, which was written during lockdown as she went through cancer treatment, revealed much more about her than nearly two decades of tabloid headlines.

It begins with the kind of frank straight talking her fans would recognise. “I have cancer,” she writes on the opening page. “Cancer that has spread from its original site in my breast to my lungs, make it much harder to treat … even with the best immunotherapy, I’ll be looking at two years maximum.”

She didn’t quite make that long. In all of the coverage of her death this weekend, one tragic detail stood out. She had gone for an ultrasound after she found enlarged and tender lymph nodes under her arm, and her breast size changed. The results weren’t good and she was advised to schedule an MRI. But it was March 2020, and Covid hit. “I was aware I needed to get this heath issue sorted, but with everything that was going on, it was tough,” she recalls in the memoir.

Sarah Harding (second from left) with her Girls Aloud bandmates in 2007. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA Wire
Sarah Harding (second from left) with her Girls Aloud bandmates in 2007. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA Wire

“At the start of the pandemic, there was so much conflicting information about hospital appointments, with the main message being to stay away unless it was a real emergency.” She convinced herself it was just a cyst, even as the pain became so intense she couldn’t sleep.

This, I think, is part of the reason why her death has affected so many people beyond her immediate fan base. Everyone knows someone who has died shockingly young from cancer, or someone who ignored and niggling worry and left it too late. And tragically, many of us know someone who delayed a hospital appointment because of Covid.

There’s a sense of urgency in the book, of time running out, but what is remarkable reading it the day after her death was announced is the absence of anger or self-pity. She talks about her regrets and the relationships that didn’t work out, her stints in rehab, the time she was viciously assaulted by a partner, why she wished she hadn’t gone on Celebrity Big Brother – there’s a sense that for her, this was a reckoning.

The book starts out as mostly a memoir – from her childhood growing up the daughter of working-class parents of Irish descent, suffering from ADHD and moving school seven times, to her days in the band – but as it progresses, the cancer intrudes more frequently.

Between funny stories about her life as a celebrity, she unflinchingly catalogues her growing list of symptoms. She writes about her exhaustion, her loss of concentration, her aching joints, the increasingly grim prognosis after a tumour was discovered on her brain, the bloating from steroids, and her exhaustion.

Harding shook things up, stormed through their stage performances, refused to be sit down and be quiet and suck it up

She writes bluntly about her mastectomy and her sadness at the realisation that she will never have children, never feel like herself again.

But only occasionally does she directly confront the prospect of her death. At one point, she writes that her doctors told her Christmas 2020 would be her last, and how “silly little things” were making her happy – lie-ins, roasting a chicken – were making her happy.

Harding’s death has seemed to unleash a wave of public feeling, the way deaths of well-known people sometimes do. Caroline Flack’s death sparked a – sadly short-lived – movement for more kindness online. Jade Goody’s death from cervical cancer in 2009 led to a surge in women booking smear tests.

After Harding’s death was announced at the weekend, the internet was filled with people sharing breast cancer warning signs and visual charts.

This, you suspect, would have pleased her. “There had been so much reporting on the news about people missing out on check-ups during Covid lockdown, even though they might be worried about something. People who had left a cancer diagnosis too late. Maybe if I spoke out, as a public figure, a celebrity, it could help get the message across how important it is to get checked out if you have concerns. That’s something I plan on doing if I can.”

“Girls”, she writes, “please everyone – don’t let anything get in your way – get checked out if you’re worried about something.”

Harding’s mother, Marie, has said she hopes her daughter will be remembered for something other than her disease. That will come in time.

Chris Martin once called Girls Aloud “the ultimate form of life”, and you didn’t have to be a fan to know what he meant. It was arguably more true of Harding than any of the others. She was part of the cookie-cutter manufactured pop band – recruited through a TV show and managed by Louis Walsh – but there was always something untameable and unknowable about her.

She shook things up, stormed through their stage performances, refused to be sit down and be quiet and suck it up. Unlike others of her era, she was never defined by whatever man she was in a relationship with. And like her musical heroes – Lady Gaga, Madonna, Gwen Stefani – she was more intelligent and thoughtful than many gave her credit for.

Right to the end, she was brimming with life, albeit in the end making do with a much more intimate stage. “The other Sarah Harding is still in there somewhere,” she wrote. “Making people smile is one of the things I’m missing most because it’s what makes me smile.”

In the final pages of her book, she describes how she has been thinking about funerals and the kind of send-off she’d like. “I’ve also thought about an epitaph for my grave,” she writes, a flash of Hardcore Harding there at the end.

“I’m thinking ‘FFS’ might be a good one.”

I hope that’s the one she ends up with.

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Inside the tiny ‘smart home’ that will be sold in London for less than £300k

Voice Of EU



Making homes affordable for first-time buyers is a problem that does not have one easy solution.  

With house prices having risen rapidly since the start of the pandemic, many are finding themselves priced out – especially in inner cities. 

But major housebuilder Barratt Homes thinks it has found a way for young people to climb on to the housing ladder without breaking the bank. 

The living area in Barratt's 'SMRT' home. The apartment comes in at just 37 square metres

The living area in Barratt’s ‘SMRT’ home. The apartment comes in at just 37 square metres

At its Eastman Village development in Harrow, North London,  it has built a tiny home measuring just 37 square metres or 400 sq ft. 

It may have the smallest floor plan that can be built under the Government’s minimum space standards, but Barratt describes the flat as ‘a forward-thinking luxury product that is perfectly proportioned’. 

Although the apartments might charitably be described as ‘cosy,’ the price is right, with homes starting at £290,000. This is £40,000 cheaper than the standard Barratt home in London. 

It says the tiny homes are designed to ‘help ease the squeeze experienced by London’s “generation rent”, who face ever-rising property prices and rental costs’. 

According to Halifax’s latest house price index, the average house price in London is currently £508,000; a figure which has increased by around £25,000 since the start of the pandemic. 

Barratt is calling the new design a ‘SMRT’ home, and launched off-plan sales at the development in Harrow at the weekend. 

If it is successful, it could roll out the pocket-sized apartments across the country – and prices outside of London would likely be even lower.  

This is Money went on a tour of the show apartment, and spoke to Barratt’s senior sales manager Joseph Antoniazzi about whether this is really what first-time buyers want. 

The flats have been designed by Barratt’s in-house design team, BD Living, and Blocc Interiors.  

They have aimed to make the most of what little space is available, for example by adding a built-in storage unit with shelves and cupboards around the bed, and a kitchen storage cupboard that houses the washer dryer but also has room for other bulky items such as a hoover or ironing board. 

According to Barratt, small is beautiful. Its marketing material for the apartments says: 

‘While the square footage may be smaller on paper, the illusion of space created by wide balconies, floor-to-ceiling windows, and clever interior layouts, means the apartments feel open, optimised, and modern. 

‘Storage in every nook and cranny means there is no need for clunky furniture like wardrobes, sideboards, and drawers.’ 

The bedroom in the SMRT home has storage for clothes built all the way around it

The bedroom in the SMRT home has storage for clothes built all the way around it 

The kitchen cupboards have pull-out shelves to store canned food and spices, and the worktops are slimmer than average to maximise the floor space, as is the dishwasher. 

‘We have maximised every inch and made sure the space is really functional,’ said Antoniazzi. 

There is space for a small dining table in between the kitchen area and living room. Antoniazzi says they initially installed a table that folded out from the wall, but that potential buyers did not respond well to it so it was changed.  

For those working from home, there is the option to have an ‘office niche’ which consists of a desk and storage in the living room, side-by-side with the television. 

The 'office niche' in the living area provides a small space in which to work from home

The ‘office niche’ in the living area provides a small space in which to work from home

Although this may work for a single person, it could present a challenge for a couple that were both working at home.

There is also the option to have a small dressing table in the bedroom, though this would need to sit behind the door. 

In the bathroom, there is a well-sized shower cubicle, which Antoniazzi said buyers preferred to a bath.  

The outdoor terrace is small, with room for two chairs and a small table, but it backs on to a larger shared garden which gives the illusion of space. 

The apartment comes with a small terrace which backs on to a larger shared garden

The apartment comes with a small terrace which backs on to a larger shared garden

For flats on upper floors, there would instead be a balcony.

Antoniazzi said the homes were designed for first-time buyers, key workers and students, and acknowledged that they would not be suitable for a family. 

‘It is very much first-time buyer driven,’ he said, adding that lifestyle changes during the pandemic had seen families move out of locations like Harrow to the countryside, and be replaced by renters from central London – as people from across the spectrum sought to move up a level in terms of space. 

‘Post-lockdown, we saw a change in the type of buyer that was coming to view our apartments in Harrow. 

‘Whereas previously it was couples and young families, we saw the profile change towards people who had previously been renting in central London and didn’t want to waste money on rent any more.’

The storage cupboard in the kitchen provides some space for household essentials

The storage cupboard in the kitchen provides some space for household essentials

He said the idea for the micro-apartments came from the fact that many of these potential buyers had saved up during the pandemic and were keen to get on the housing ladder, but needed something more affordable than the market average. 

Antoniazzi also said the small homes could become a more popular way of getting on the housing ladder when the Government’s Help to Buy scheme ends in 2023.  

Barratt has said that, if buyers respond well to these micro-apartments, they could build more in cities across the country. 

The apartments could work well for single occupiers, who often struggle to get a large enough mortgage because of salary requirements. 

Living there as a couple could be a squeeze – but the success of the SMRT homes will reveal whether first-time buyers think that is a price worth paying to get on the ladder.

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

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Family of Covid patient who left hospital urges people to follow ‘proper’ medical advice

Voice Of EU



The family of a Covid-19 patient who last week left Letterkenny University Hospital after being encouraged by anti-vaccine campaigners has criticised those involved and encouraged people to follow “proper” medical advice.

Joe McCarron, from Dungloe, was the subject of a viral video in which a group of people insisted that he be released from the hospital, despite medical staff stating this would worsen his condition.

He left on Tuesday but returned to the hospital on Thursday in an ambulance. A spokesperson for his family on Sunday said Mr McCarron was on a ventilator in the intensive care unit but was showing signs of recovering despite Covid-19 having caused him “serious lung damage”.

They said Mr McCarron’s wife, Una, “would like to thank the staff and apologise for the actions of Joe’s so-called reckless friends earlier in the week.

“They did not help Joe’s recovery in any way. We would encourage everyone to follow proper medical advice.”

The family offered its thanks to those who had sent messages of support.

In the video, one activist said he was “rescuing” Mr McCarron and falsely claimed that treatment in the hospital would “kill” him.

One staff member told the man that leaving the hospital would risk “endangering” his life, but the activist said it would be better if he were to “die in the house than he dies here”.

Mr McCarron, who appeared to be struggling to breathe in the footage, then agreed to return home and was later shown in a video posted on social media saying that he felt much better and accusing the hospital of mistreating him.

In a statement last week, a spokeswoman for Saolta Hospital Group (SHG) which oversees Letterkenny Hospital, said it could not comment on individual cases, citing its legal and ethical obligations regarding patient confidentiality.

The group has previously said it is “gravely concerned” by a number of recent incidents in which groups of activists have attempted to spread disinformation about Covid-19 at hospitals.

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How to get the Warm Home Discount and why you should act fast

Voice Of EU



Could YOU save £140 on energy bills with the Warm Home Discount? Some suppliers have opened applications… but you should act quickly

  • Thousands could save £140 on their energy bills through a Government scheme 
  • We reveal whether you could be eligible for the Warm Home Discount 
  • We also asked suppliers whether their applications are open yet  
  • Can you save money? Try our Compare the Market powered energy comparison 

Thousands of households are eligible to receive £140 off their energy bill this winter through the Warm Home Discount.

Low income homes and those receiving their pension could see a significant chunk taken off their bills if they sign up to the scheme in the next few weeks.

This will be particularly important as the new energy price cap level is set to kick in at the beginning of October, rising bills for millions of customers.

Customers are encouraged to apply as soon as their supplier opens applications as there is a limited number of discounts to go around. 

Thousands are eligible to receive £140 off their energy bill through the Warm Home Discount

Thousands are eligible to receive £140 off their energy bill through the Warm Home Discount

Several providers have said they will offer the discounts on a first come, first served basis meaning eligible households should act fast.  

This is Money has detailed exactly what the Warm Home Discount is, how you can apply and which energy suppliers have started taking applications for the scheme.

What is the scheme?

Eligible households could get £140 off their electricity bill for winter 2021 to 2022 under the Warm Home Discount Scheme which officially opens on 18 October 2021.

The money is not paid directly to customers but instead is a one-off discount on a home’s electricity bill between October and March.

Customers may be able to get the discount on their gas bill instead if their supplier provides them with both gas and electricity and should contact their provider to find out.

Am I eligible?

You could be eligible if you get the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit – known as the ‘core group’.

If you are in this category, you will receive a letter between October and December 2021 telling you how to get the discount if you qualify.

Your electricity supplier will apply the discount to your bill by 31 March 2022.

If you have not received a letter and think you are eligible, contact your energy provider.  

Customers could also be eligible if they are on a low income and meet their energy supplier’s criteria for the scheme – known as the ‘broader group’.

If in this category, you will have to apply for the discount through your provider which will decide who is eligible or not.

As the number of discounts is limited, customers are encouraged to apply as early as possible to ensure they can take advantage of the scheme.

Households can still qualify for the discount if they use a pre-pay or pay-as-you-go electricity meter.

Suppliers will tell you how you will get the discount if you’re eligible, for example a voucher you can use to top up your meter.

A number of providers have already opened their applications for the discount scheme

A number of providers have already opened their applications for the discount scheme

Which energy suppliers have opened applications?

Ovo, which also looks after SSE, said it doesn’t yet have a firm scheme opening date but it’s likely to be later this month.

It added its advice to customers at the moment would be to register their interest online and it will be sure to contact them with more information as soon as the scheme is open. 

British Gas said its scheme for 2021/22 is now open and customers can apply. 

EDF added its scheme is also now open and customers can apply on their website. 

The supplier said it encourages customers to apply as soon as possible as the scheme will be closed once it hits its maximum number of applications. 

It added it anticipates applying the rebate to eligible customers accounts by the end of February 2022. 

Octopus Energy said it has already opened its applications now. 

There is no specific deadline for applications but it will be mentioning the scheme to customers who might be able to benefit from being in the broader group. 

Bulb said customers in the broader group for the Warm Home Discount can now register their interest on its website and it will email them when applications open later this month.

It added it processes applications on a first come, first served basis so it encourages members to register their interest as soon as they can. 

Eon is now taking applications and is encouraging customers to apply as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, Eon Next’s scheme will open in the coming weeks, but customers can register interest on the website now and it will contact them when it opens. 

Scottish Power added its applications had been open since 10 August.  


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